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Welcome to Tuscany!

First order of business: Let's eat!

Welcome to my home! Let me introduce you to the family… ‘Mamma’ Annalisa, who taught me to cook most of what I feed my family. ‘Nonna’ Lola, who taught my mother. ‘Babbo’ Leonardo, who one day got me in from of the fireplace and said “Ok, let’s cook dinner!” And my brother Fabio, the very first person I ever cooked for.

It is not easy to describe how I feel each time I go back home to Tuscany, now that I have spent about a decade in the US. Tuscany is actually not my home anymore, wherever Debi and the girls are, that is my home now… in this sense I truly feel like an immigrant!

Debi swept me away—we fell in love and I did not think twice about the implications of leaving everything behind: my friends, my homeland, my family. I said goodbye, I packed my small apartment above Lola’s farm, I shipped all my drums, and that was it, I never thought about it twice.

Debi still sweeps me off my feet.

Our farmland on the hills above Florence now represents a wonderful and strong heritage to me and my girls, but it is not home anymore… at least not for now. Fiesole and our olive orchard are somewhat the grand-prize at the end of a full year of hard work, a place we escape to whenever we can, away from the frenetic pace of Hollywood, away from the business… also away from wireless internet, frappuccinos and Hug boots. Yes, Tuscany still holds something very special for us: we get back to our roots, we slow down our pace, we re-connect and energize ourselves, and we EAT!

Our home in Fiesole, a town above Florence, Tuscany.

Each time the girls and I land in the small Florence airport we all deeply exhale, we look at each other with a smile, conscious of the fact that all of the sudden the world has slowed down for us. My daughter’s first question is always the same: “Babbo, what do you think Nonna has made us for dinner?” I am so happy that even living thousands of miles away from their grandparents and their uncle, my daughters have managed to build very strong relationships with the members of my family. I often think of how it must have been for the old generations of immigrants, when leaving parents behind and crossing the Atlantic Ocean meant, for the most part, saying goodbye forever, contact limited to hand written mail, and eventually, the phone. Giulia and Evelina have the luxury of technology, and manage to get on the computer and launch video-calls with their Nonni a few times a week. They are learning Italian, they are aware of their family roots, and that makes me really proud!

Since I was a kid, my grandfather promised me the pink barn that is our Fiesole home: “Gabriele, one day when you’ll have your own family you can live there if you’d like.” Those words are with me each day of my life, and I hear them again each time Debi, the girls and I cross the entrance door of our old barn. It is like re-claiming my roots, honoring my grandfather, and it offers me the opportunity to gift my girls with something truly exceptional, something that will be a part of them forever, the same way that it has been for me.

The colors, the smells, the slowness of the hills of Fiesole are qualities that my girls have embraced, and now recognize as part of who they are.

The tastes of Tuscany welcome me back every time.

Needless to say, our priority when we get to our home away from home is to stock up the pantry, and that is a task that not even the meanest jet-lag can prevent us from accomplishing. A trip to the local bakery for some schiacciata (traditional unsalted Tuscan bread), a visit to our butcher friend for some real pork sausages and a super-thick bistecca alla Fiorentina, a pit stop at a bar for a spuma (traditional soda) or better, a glass of bubbly prosecco. Then finally, the local grocery store to fill up our bags with all the basics. Last but not least, a visit to the wood shop where we load our wicker baskets with all varieties of wood to cook with in our fireplace.

Debi and I making dinner together.

As far as vegetables and fruit we are very lucky, since a few farmers cultivate on our property and share with us all their seasonal goods. Also many wild fruit trees grow all around our house: figs, apples, pears, peaches, apricots and blackberries… It is such a joy for me to see my daughters pick fresh fruit and run all happy back home to grandma: “Shall we eat this or make some jam? If we make jam, can we then make a tart Nonna?”

I love that my girls can get outside, and pick their own food.

When we are in our Little Pink House I am at my happiest—all my family is together and I would not trade that feeling for anything in this world.

Welcome to Fiesole! Here you will meet some of our dearest friends, you will finally see the fields we always talk about, you will see where Debi and I met and fell for each other… We are both very excited to share this with you.

Gabriele.

Pasta makes you happy; meat makes you strong.

Watch Gabriele and Debi Mazar cook meals from their home, every Wednesday night at 10:30pm ET/ 9:30pm CT on Cooking Channel.

Recipes from this episode:

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